Writer: Adam Boxer
Date:Monday February 18 2008
With the ball at their feet, the nouveau riche Queens Park Rangers play like a team on a mission. An influx of promising youngsters mixing in with some seasoned professionals makes QPR a team of promise. Match that with the ambition of the illustrious new owners and Rangers are a team in the fast lane for success.
In the words of Bob Dylan, 'The times they are a changin`` Over the years fans like myself have had to witness our beloved Rangers being tossed about like the proverbial hot potato, lurching from one disaster to another on occasions, and seeing glimpses of success on the field. From the excitement of promotion pushes, met with nervous battles against relegation, Rangers on an off the field have become somewhat of an inconsistency in recent years. In the days of Replica Shirts and Rollover Hot Dogs, one group remain consistent however, The Fans.
As a relatively young Queens Park Rangers fan, it could be said that the glory days have passed me by, from the League Cup Final win in 1967, through the success in the 70`s and 80`s. As a young lad from Banbury in Oxfordshire, the local options didn`t seem as attractive for a small child; and with my father`s roots firmly in Northwest London, and an already fanatical older brother, there seemed only one option for me. I became part of Queens Park Rangers when my father took me to see QPR v Coventry City on Saturday 10th September 1994, I remember it like it was yesterday, and I haven`t looked back since. A season ticket holder at Loftus Road, I am 63 league grounds into my 92, which leaves me in good stead at the tender age of 20.
Rangers fans as a whole are a loyal crop of people, turning up in their numbers every week irrespective of form to cheer on their team, in what makes a unique atmosphere at Loftus Road. The stadium sits in West London, side by side with the BBC, and is surrounded by a veritable bricolage of cultural diversity. The roof reverberates the unbridled passion of the Rangers faithful, who are positioned directly over the field of play in steeply tiered stands, making Loftus Road an intimidating prospect for any player and travelling fan alike.
Travelling away with Rangers, is an unforgettable experience, which dates back to a 2-0 defeat away at Port Vale in September 1997. Already then I had a feel for what away games were all about, an identity created on the basis you`re in the minority, home colours of Blue and White, making way for Black and Red, and a startling scenario shift from the comfort zone of West London, out to all areas of the country. My first taste of anti-London ensued with choruses up and down the country of, "We hate Cockneys" and "Same old cockneys, always cheating", and the amusing expressions on the faces of the opposition fans when Rangers fans joined in. A heavier police presence wherever we travelled made me aware of the fact that London had an ill-deserved reputation for being a breeding ground for hooliganism.
This reputation led to some strange experiences as a growing lad. As a fan who travelled to game courtesy of my fathers driving, we were often led from the ground via police escort in totally the opposite direction towards the rail station, evidently I could not argue being a fan, being decked out in blue and white and so were mostly unable to deviate from the crowd. One such instance at Grimbsy in the FA Cup in 2003, where we were forced to march through the streets of Cleethorpes, like prisoners on the green mile, led by Police officers on horseback, and being watched out of windows by locals, who must have been bemoaning these London hooligans.
Such instances are common supporting a London based club, another such incident at Luton, whereby Police Officers lined the street outside the away exit, forcing us to wait in the street whilst the home fans dispersed. Nearly 15-20 minutes passes and we have yet to move, Officers talking to irate supporters do nothing to quell the disappointment and impatience in the air, by offering officious spiel, and defining no real answer as to why we remain motionless. Such an officer was stopped mid-sentence by his commanding officer who let us pass, leaving the officer in question highly annoyed his power relations had been infringed.
It is not a phenomena of the past either, this season alone there have been similar instances, Rangers fans being kept behind on the first game of the season, "For their own safety", when safety implications were already being breached by having one exit for over 2,000 fans. Another instance of Southampton, a new ground being built which takes a good away following well over 15 minutes to depart the stadium, heaven forbid there`d be an emergency.
Such concerns are put aside for 90 minutes, as fans watch what they came to see a good game of football. Rangers style has been adapted dramatically over the years, with some good passing football in the 80`s moving into a direct style of play into the 90`s and thus far the extremely direct 00`s. But once again this is coming round full circle with Rangers now playing some excellent passing football, which essentially is in the ethos of the club.
From the roar at Loftus Road to the tightly knit community of away support, Rangers fans carry their identity across the country, and support their team wherever they travel. From the official figure of 7,300 away fans for the last gasp promotion at Hillsborough, to the few hundred who braved the almost inevitable away at Vauxhall Motors in Chester, (albeit losing the replay) Rangers fans comport themselves in a friendly manner by and large, always up for a chat and banter over a pre-match pint, carrying the name of the club around the country and beyond.
They cheer on a team, that if short on all other attributes, should never be short of passion, effort and commitment, three characteristics that all football supporters can agree is the basis for any success. After a victory, there are fists pumping and voices cheering in jubilation, in defeat polite applause for efforts, which reciprocate themselves between players and fans, to contribute this special intra-personal form of communication, that makes QPR a truly special club to be a part of.
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